Before The Loki Series – A History of Marvels Most Iconic Villain

07. February 2022.

The logo of the Loki Series

Before The Loki Series – A History of Marvels Most Iconic Villain

Bridgerton Title Screen
Bridgerton Title Screen

Phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended with a big boom last year. We lost many things in the Endgame, but in turn, we are promised to receive new and amazing things. We did not come out of the battle unharmed, but then again, life is about change, and the MCU couldn’t have stayed the same for the rest of eternity.

We are getting closer and closer to the release date of the very first episode of the Disney+ Loki series. Although the most accurate information we currently have is that it will happen sometime in May this year, there is already talk of a second season. Of course, the success of the new series is not guaranteed, but based on the trailer they dropped in December the MCU Exchange wrote, “it’s looking to be one of the best things they’ve done.”

Benevolent Loki from Thor RagnarokNow, two years after Infinity War, it seems like we have finally accepted the reality, that the Loki we have known to have somewhat warmed up to the idea of not constantly trying to destroy his own race, did actually die. We tried long and hard to reason, that attacking the most powerful villain with a tiny knife is not something that Loki would do if he didn’t have another plan. Or that him saying “The sun will shine on us again.” Cannot have been without reason. Now it is time to look forward and embrace whatever may come.

But before that, I think it’s appropriate to take a moment to remember where we started our journey with him. Although you might be like me and hold a marathon before the show drops in May.

A somewhat distant history

Young Loki from Thor 2011We saw Loki first in Thor (2011). Fresh and “young”, yet to be corrupted by the discovery of his origin. A good-looking man. Good-looking in a completely different way from his brother, Thor. He was slim and less sturdy than the regular Asgardian people were. He was always interested in playing tricks. He was soon to learn that the reason he is so different from everyone he knows, is that his ancestors are frost giants, who are the biggest enemies of Asgard, his home.

He realizes that he never had a chance to break out from the shadow of his brother because he was never eligible to take over the throne of Asgard like he was told as a child. That’s when he started to try to prove his worth desperately, by destroying the entire race of frost giants, to show that he is worthy. When his father at the end of the first Thor movie rejected his efforts, he let go of the end of Odin’s spear, and with it the idea of having a family, floating away towards a black hole.

We meet him again in The Avengers (2012), visibly in worse shape. We don’t have much information about what he went through in the time between the two movies, but when asked about this, Tom Hiddleston said,
“I think the Loki we see in The Avengers is further advanced. You have to ask yourself the question: How pleasant an experience is it disappearing into a wormhole that has been created by some kind of super nuclear explosion of his own making?  So I think by the time Loki shows up in The Avengers, he’s seen a few things.”

Now we also know what it meant, that this was the time when he got acquainted with Thanos and his gang. Back then we couldn’t quite fathom, what kind of a threat he was dealing with at the time. This does not redeem him from the guilt, however. He did intend on becoming the ruler of all humankind, and he was probably the one to come up with the arrangement in the first place, but just knowing what was happening in the background sets things into perspective.

Loki in The Avengers 2012The Loki we saw here was wicked, and one that reminds you of a venomous snake, but this was, at the time, a low from where he could only improve. By the time, we reached Thor: Ragnarok, it was easier to see the young Loki in him, than it was in the first Avengers. In Infinity War, though it still seemed like a hard decision, he chose to save his brother’s life by giving up the Tesseract, the item, he always tried to steal, in every situation, and the brother, he tried to kill countless times.

We didn’t get to see much of him in Endgame, but the only thing we saw him do was stealing the Tesseract, which is perfect to show that he is back to old habits. If he spends all those years on his own, doing mischief, instead of with his brother, he might become more dangerous than ever before. In conclusion, we have a lot to look forward to in the new Loki series.

A far more distant history

A page from Snorri Sturlusons Prose EddaThe Thor movies are Marvel’s adaptation of Norse Mythology. It probably won’t be a big surprise for anyone if I say that there are quite a few differences between the myths of Scandinavia and the Marvel movies. Much like when a book is adapted into movie form, things cannot be kept in their original forms, when a movie is made with a mythological topic. But what does “original form” really mean in this case? The myths, that the MCU movies are based on, only existed in spoken language for an uncertain, but definitely long time, and they were first written down after Latin letters – and Christianity – had spread in Scandinavia. Between Christianity’s first appearance in the area, and the birth of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, about 200 years passed, so the original stories were probably already altered by the new religion at the point of their preservation.

Moreover, when a new MCU film is made, it has to communicate with all the other films and stories already in the Marvel Universe, they can’t only stand on their own. Artistic choices can and should be made. In my opinion, these changes only serve to help the story live on and grow.

As I already mentioned, there are big differences between the myths and the movies. The Loki we see in the myths is essentially the same in that he is described as a beautiful man, (there is not much else about his appearance). He is mischievous and likes to play tricks on his fellow gods. But unlike in the movies, he is not Thor’s brother, nor is he Odin’s son. His family relations are quite blurry, and we don’t know much about who his parents were. We only have their names. Laufey and Fárbauti, but unlike in the MCU, Laufey is not his father, but his mother. Some sources call him Loki, son of Laufey, which a matronymic, as opposed to the many ‘–son’ names in Scandinavia that we are used to today.

An old illustration of LokiThere seems to be some similarity in his character arc in the myths and the Marvel movies, although it is very hard to define any arc at all in mythology. Mythology is mostly a collection of stories that are connected by their heroes, and the places they are set in. The stories we know today, with a few exceptions, are not easily put into chronological order. There are two fixed points, the beginning of the story, and the end of it. The appearance of the first living creatures in the universe, and Ragnarök. The stories connected to Ragnarök, and the time leading up to it show a Loki that is a far more negative character than in those that have nothing to do with the end of the gods, he is a trickster, not a harbinger of catastrophe. Loki plays a big part in bringing on the end. He was the father of three monsters (Fenris, the wolf, Jormungandr, the world serpent, and Hel, the ruler of the realm of the dead) that were all in the forces marching against Asgard at Ragnarök. Moreover, Loki also killed Balder, Odin’s perfect son, which was the first sign that the end is nigh. (You can read more about Ragnarök in my other post: Norse Mythology – A summary)

There is no explanation in any of the myths, as to what made him change from the trickster, whose worse deed was that he cut off the hair of Sif, Thor’s wife, and who used to make up for all of his sins. Marvel perhaps also used this rather mysterious part of mythology to build the complex character of Loki.

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The Great Hunt of Odin
Norse Mythology – A Summary

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